ABC Hauls In $2.3 Billion, and Upfront Can Come to a Close

Networks Ring Up $9.05 Billion

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NEW YORK ( -- ABC has brought this year's TV upfront buying-and-selling period to a close, as the Walt Disney Co., network sold $2.3 billion in airtime, a $200 million increase over last year. The final network TV upfront haul came out to $9.05 billion, compared to $9.1 billion last year.

$3 billion overall for the ABC
ABC said total revenue from prime-time and other dayparts reached more than $3 billion. Its upfront tally is second to CBS's, which reeled in $2.4 billion. Rounding out the major networks, NBC took in $1.9 billion, Fox $1.8 billion and the CW an estimated $650 million.

Without NBC factoring in how much it has earned from its addition of National Football League games on Sunday nights, the upfront would have been down almost $300 million, at $8.75 billion. Traditionally, the upfront numbers refer only to prime-time entertainment programming, and ABC has included sporting events in its total as well. The network will carry college football on Saturday nights in the fall, along with Nascar.

Slate of new shows
ABC was the last of the big networks to complete its upfront negotiations for a number of reasons. Media agencies said ABC's unusually large number of new shows this year -- six comedies, six dramas and three alternative series -- made planning program mixes slightly more difficult.

The network sold between 75% and 80% of its inventory, saving a major portion of its airtime for the "scatter" market. ABC commanded scatter pricing 10% above upfront pricing levels last year and will likely continue to benefit from a strong market should hit shows "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" continue to perform.

ABC president sales and marketing, Mike Shaw, said moving "Grey's Anatomy" to Thursday night had helped the network score additional dollars. "We didn't get the upfront we wanted, but we got the upfront we needed," Mr. Shaw said.

ABC asked for cost-per-thousand increases of between 3% to 4%, though some media agencies said the network also did deals that were slightly lower, between 2% to 3%. In line with how other networks reported their upfront sales, ABC included prime-time sports, such as a new Saturday night college football game, and Nascar events, in its prime-time total.

Holding firm on other dayparts
Mr. Shaw said that while ABC took a hit on prime-time pricing, it held firm for better CPM rates on other dayparts such as news and daytime. "We had a decent upfront and hit all of our targets in the outer day parts. It was not easy. The agencies have to be commended they did a really good job, they were able to align themselves with what they wanted to buy."

Separately, AOL confirmed today it had pulled its upfront buys and is looking to sell off its commitments for the third quarter for July and August. AOL said its decision is due to a change in strategy, raising speculation about a potential ownership change at the Time Warner unit. Another marketer, Johnson & Johnson, will begin its negotiations with the broadcast networks come August, to more closely align its decision-making with its own sales cycles. Coca-Cola Co. also did not make broadcast network upfront commitments and is understood to be starting conversations about its future buys now.

A number of marketers have decided to sit out the upfront, or hold back money in order to take advantage of digital opportunities that might arise later in the year. ABC did not sell its broadband or video-on-demand offerings as part of the upfront, also preferring to discuss them outside of the upfront forum.
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